(New throughout, adds details on growing branded drugs focus, updates share price)
By Caroline Humer
NEW YORK, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Actavis Plc, a generic drugmaker that has been steadily acquiring branded medicines, said it will change its name to Allergan Inc after it completes its planned $66 billion purchase of the Botox maker, signaling its growing focus on patent-protected drugs.
Allergan's medicine chest is chock full of branded drugs, which command far higher prices than generics. They include Botox, a $2.3 billion-a-year anti-wrinkle drug also used to treat migraine headaches and other ailments. The company also has a leading portfolio of eye treatments, facial fillers and medical devices.
Actavis, which began as a New Jersey-based generics company called Watson, took its current name after it bought Swiss drugmaker Actavis Group in 2012, a deal that made it the world's third largest generic company. It then beefed up its slate of branded drugs by purchasing Forest Laboratories and Warner Chilcott, which enabled it to move its headquarters to tax-friendly Dublin.
Fourth-quarter sales of Actavis's branded drugs nearly tripled to $1.83 billion in North America, accounting for 45 percent of total revenue, the company said on Wednesday. Generic drug sales rose 1 percent to $1.78 billion.
Actavis posted a better-than-expected adjusted quarterly profit and raised its full-year earnings forecast, saying it expected strong sales of new branded drugs.
It agreed to buy Allergan Inc last November, outbidding a hostile offer by activist investor William Ackman and Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc.
Actavis said drugs in its pipeline could bring in $9 billion in revenue once approved.
The company said it expects products in women's health, anti-infectives and bowel drugs to support sales in the near future, even as it continues to focus on making copycat versions of drugs.
"We remain focused on the development of complex generic products with barriers to entry that support longer-term value in this competitive pharmaceutical segment," said Actavis CEO Brent Saunders, who held a meeting with investors in New York on Wednesday.
Actavis has more than 200 generic drug marketing applications pending with the U.S. health regulator.
For the full year, Actavis said it expects an adjusted profit of $16.30-$17.30 per share on revenue of about $15 billion.
Analysts were expecting a profit of $16.63 per share on revenue of $15.60 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
For the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, Actavis earned $3.91 per share on an adjusted basis. Analysts on average had expected $3.67, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
The company expects the Allergan deal to close late this quarter or early second quarter 2015.
Company shares were down 1.5 percent in midday trading on the New York Stock Exchange, amid moderate declines for the drug sector. (Additional reporting by Vidya L Nathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and David Gregorio)